Please select your home edition
Edition
Gul 2016 September

Wild Oats XI gets a lift ahead of the Rolex Sydney Hobart

by Jim Gale, RSHYR Media on 16 Dec 2013 16 December 2013

The guys on Wild Oats XI call her the Swiss Army Knife these days - and fair enough - lately she has added so many foils and blades, thrusting out at all angles from her narrow steel-grey hull, she looks like some kid has had a great time pulling all the do-dahs out of a penknife at once.

When she is sitting in the water, Wild Oats XI looks pure greyhound, but suspended under the giant travel lift at her home base in Woolwich, she is almost insect like, skinny legs akimbo.

The retractable bow centreboard is still there from last year, as are the twin daggerboards angling out on either side just ahead of the mast, and the tiny winglets on the giant bulb hanging from her slender canting keel.

But now, just behind the daggerboards is a horizontal foil, which when extended, sticks out about 2 metres from the side just below the waterline.

Like the other small foils, the stabiliser is retractable, sitting in a sheath across the interior of the hull. It is only when Wild Oats XI gets above 20 knots downwind that the stabiliser will be put into play on one side or the other, depending whether she is on port or starboard gybe.

"Last year we had very tricky seas," skipper Mark Richards says of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, "so we were doing a lot of nose diving.

"We started off looking at a foil in the bow to lift the bow up, but as it evolved, it moved further and further back.

"They've been doing something similar in Europe this year, and what we have come up with has worked out really well," he says.

Richards says that as well as adding to the boat's stability at high speed, the narrow aerofoil shaped stabiliser generates some 8 tonnes of lift, making the Rolex Sydney Hobart record-holding super maxi much faster downwind in heavy conditions.

Wild Oats XI will also gain a lot of extra stability from her towering new, hi-tech, mast. At around 200 kilos lighter than the old mast, that is a huge reduction in weight swaying around aloft. Richards says that the mast issues are now behind them and its New Zealand maker is adamant all the problems have been solved.

There is a penalty, of course. There is never a free lunch in ocean racing and the new stabiliser blows Wild Oats XI's rating through the roof. She will need to finish a long way ahead of Perpetual LOYAL to beat her on handicap, or anyone else for that matter.

But let's face it, with three other super maxis, a clutch of blindingly fast V70s and the all-new, completely unknown quantity in the 80 foot Beau Geste in the annual 628 nautical mile race, it is all about line honours for Richards and owner Bob Oatley.

Wild Oats XI will need every ounce of extra speed she can find in heavy downwind running if she is to beat her chief rival, Perpetual LOYAL. In lighter northerlies and upwind into a brisk southerly the lean, narrow Wild Oats XI has a distinct advantage, but in a big nor-easter the wider, more powerful Perpetual LOYAL will shine, as will the muscular V70s.

"All the new boats are Volvo oriented," Richards says, super-fast downwind, but at the cost of upwind performance.

"Wild Oats XI is designed for VMG," Richards says, because a typical Rolex Sydney Hobart throws at least one big southerly at the fleet.

"We haven't had a proper nor' east race since 1999," when the V60 Nokia broke the race record in perfect running conditions. Although, in 2001, the V60 Assa Abloy also took line honours in tight reaching conditions.

"Most Hobarts it is 50/50; northerlies and southerlies. We have the two most prominent conditions covered."

"It's all going to come down to the conditions we get," Richard says, "and avoiding crew errors," where a lost hour can cost 20 or 30 nautical miles, or, at worst, bring these highly strung beasts to a crashing halt mid ocean.

And despite the Olympic, Volvo Ocean Race and America's Cup star-studded crews on his rivals, Richards believes that his own crew gives him a real edge: "We've been together a long time - nine years - and we read each other like a book," he says.

"You can bring out the big names but team work takes time. There's no bullshit on our boat, everyone knows his job."

A different kind of stabiliser, you could call it.

www.rolexsydneyhobart.com

Related Articles

Hap Fauth's Bella Mente declared overall winner
In the RORC Caribbean 600 Hap Fauth's American Maxi72, Bella Mente has been declared the overall winner of the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy. Whilst yachts are still racing, none of the fleet can beat Bella Mente's corrected time under IRC. Posted today at 4:14 pm
Cloudy Bay announced as Presenting Sponsor
Of the Round the Island Race Cloudy Bay has today been announced as the Presenting Sponsor of the Round the Island Race™ which is forthwith branded 'The Round the Island Race™ in association with Cloudy Bay'. Posted today at 2:29 pm
Epic win for Bella Mente
In the RORC Caribbean 600 The All-American Maxi72 battle in the RORC Caribbean 600 lived up to expectations with Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and George Sakellaris' Proteus enjoying an epic match race. Posted on 23 Feb
Rambler 88 takes Monohull Line Honours
In the RORC Caribbean 600 George David's American Maxi, Rambler 88 finished the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 on Wednesday 22 February 2017 at 11 hrs 56 mins 17 secs AST taking Monohull Line Honours. Posted on 22 Feb
RORC Caribbean 600 Day 3
MOD70 Nail-Biter While the multihull race record was not broken this year, Phaedo3 and Maserati had an incredible 600 mile high-speed duel. Posted on 22 Feb
RORC Caribbean 600 Day 2
More Argyll than Antigua After a champagne start to the race there was a huge change in weather conditions by the end of the first day. The low pressure system emanating from the north arrived earlier than anticipated, extinguishing the trade winds. Posted on 21 Feb
An Awe Inspiring Start
To the 9th RORC Caribbean 600 The ninth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 started in magnificent conditions with the largest ever offshore fleet assembled in the Caribbean enjoying sparkling conditions. Posted on 20 Feb
Abnormal Weather for RORC Caribbean 600
The infamous 'It's normally not like this...' Wouter Verbraak will be navigating Grant Gordon's 72ft Maxi Cruiser, Louise for the RORC Caribbean 600. Wouter has competed in the Barcelona World Race, the Volvo Ocean Race on numerous occasions and is Head of Sevenstar Racing Yacht Logistics. Posted on 20 Feb
RORC Caribbean 600 Welcome Party
Less than 48 hours to go to the start With less than 48 hours to go, it's a busy scene around the docks as crews prepare for the start of the RORC Caribbean 600 on Monday 20th February, but on Saturday evening it was time to officially open the race and welcome everyone to Antigua. Posted on 19 Feb
Chase the Race by Land or Sea
At Antigua Sailing Week The Antigua Sailing Week team is inviting spectators to "Chase the Race" daily as part of the 50th Edition of Antigua Sailing Week which will take place from April 29 to May 7, 2017. Posted on 19 Feb